Kick Him Out

I vividly remember when karaoke machines first came out. I remember because a karaoke machine created trouble for me and my church. When the machines first hit the market, a member of my congregation named James purchased one. James, one of our most dedicated members, served as a deacon, taught a large Sunday school class, and sang in the choir. James had a beautiful tenor voice. One Sunday night James brought his karaoke machine to a church wide fellowship, and everyone had a blast singing on it. James became a bit of a celebrity in our town, singing at parties and other events on his karaoke machine. Before long James was singing at a local bar on Friday nights. He didn’t drink; he just sang. The people at the bar enjoyed James’s singing so much that he became a permanent fixture on Friday nights.

Several months later an extremely self-righteous and judgmental couple from my congregation came to see me. They said, “Pastor, we have a problem in this church that you need to take care of.” At that point, they began to complain about James’s singing at the bar. They said it was sinful, a poor witness, and was hurting the reputation of our church. I asked them, “What do you want me to do about it?” They said, “We want you to remove James from the deacon board, take away his Sunday school class, and ban him from singing in the choir. In fact, we think he should be kicked out of the church altogether.”

At first I tried to reason with them. I said, “I’m not sure if James’s behavior is sinful or not. He’s not drinking at the bar; he’s only singing. And while we may think that Christians shouldn’t hang out at bars, we need to remember that Jesus used to hang out with sinners, tax collectors, and even prostitutes. I’m not convinced his singing at the bar is a sin.”

They shot back, “Of course it’s a sin! How could it not be?” After thirty minutes of this kind of dialogue, I knew I could not satisfy them. So I gulped hard and said, “Even if it is sinful, I’m not going to remove James from the deacon board, take away his Sunday school class, or ban him from the choir. And I’m sure not going to kick him out of the church. If I kicked out every sinner in this church, we wouldn’t have any deacons left, we wouldn’t have any Sunday school teachers left, and we wouldn’t have any choir members left. In fact, if we kicked out all the sinners in this church we wouldn’t have any members left at all, including me. I’m sorry, but I cannot do what you are asking.”

They said, “Pastor, if you don’t do this, we will leave the church.” I replied, “I hope you won’t leave. You are valuable members of this church, and we don’t want to lose you. But I am not going to kick James out of the church for singing at a bar.” In the end we both kept our word. I didn’t kick James out, and they left the church.